LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Three dozen human service and arts organizations warned Louisville Metro Council members that Mayor Greg Fischer's proposed budget cuts would harm their programs.
The comments came Wednesday at the only public hearing before council members begin debating Fischer's $750 million budget plan.
Groups like Volunteers of America, which provides a shelter for Louisville's homeless people, and the Home of the Innocents complained that Fischer recommended slashing funding for certain projects by more than half.
"If we can't take care of the needs of the most vulnerable in our city, then I'm concerned about our ability to call ourselves a compassionate community," said Jennifer Hancock, the chief operating officer for the Volunteers of America of Kentucky.
While 36 groups asked council members to maintain or increase funding, three members of the public suggested reduced or realigned funding for certain programs. One of them argued against the proposed fee increase on Louisville Gas and Electric, which would cost gas customers about $20 a year.
"It's my understanding that taxes never die," said Frandrea Neal. "It's 'Til death do you part.' That's the concern I have with it."
Fischer's budget directs about $6.8 million in new spending to public safety, including the hiring of 24 extra police officers beyond replacing retiring members of the force. The budget also calls for additional police overtime next year, hiring civilians to monitor Louisville's surveillance cameras, and increased funding for neighborhood centers.
The proposed LG&E tax would pay for much of the new public safety spending, with general fund revenue covering the rest, the mayor's office has said.
In recent years, as the needs of low-income people have increased, more groups have started assistance programs. But the city's budget isn't able to cover all of their demands.
Steve Williams, a Home of the Innocents associate director, said Fischer's budget severely cuts the group's Project Keepsafe. The program provides child care while parents receive mental and physical health care.
Four years ago, Metro government provided $47 million in funding, which has dropped to $26 million this year, Williams said.
"(Next) year's level of only $8,600 really decimates the program," he told council members.
The council's budget committee will hold several hearings with Metro government agencies over the next two weeks. Members have scheduled a full council vote for later in June.
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